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Details of anthrax investigation revealed

  |   Aug. 22, 2008 at 10:38 PM
WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- A team of U.S. scientists spent nearly seven years working in secret to help crack the 2001 anthrax letter case, the FBI said.

Federal investigators asked scientists from a number of research institutions, including Sandia National Laboratories, to help in the investigation of letters containing bacillus anthracis that were mailed in 2001 to several media organizations and two Democratic U.S. senators -- Tom Daschle of North Dakota and Pat Leahy of Vermont. Five people were killed and 17 people were injured.

Sandia said research by the lab demonstrated to the FBI that the form of bacillus anthracis contained in those letters was not a weaponized form. Investigator Joseph Michael said the information was crucial in ruling out state-sponsored terrorism.

Michael, Paul Kotula and roughly a dozen other researchers examined more than 200 samples over six and one-half years, Sandia said Thursday in a release.

"Sandia's work was the first to actually link the spore material in the New York Post, the Daschle and the Leahy letters," the release said. "The elemental signatures and the locations of these signatures, while not indicating intentional weaponization, did show that the spores were indistinguishable and therefore likely came from the same source. That conclusion was corroborated a few years later by the DNA studies."

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